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Cape Cod [Paperback]

Henry David Thoreau
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 1972
This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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"Cape Cod is Thoreau's sunniest, happiest book. It bubbles over with jokes, puns, tall tales, and genial good humor. . . . Unquestionably the best book that has ever been written about Cape Cod, and it is the model to which all new books about the Cape are still compared."--Walter Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Robert Pinsky is Professor of English at Boston University and an editor of the weekly online magazine "Slate". He is the author of many books of poetry and literary criticism. He served two terms as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, 1997-2000. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
WISHING to get a better view than I had yet had of the ocean, which, we are told, covers more than two-thirds of the globe, but of which a man who lives a few miles inland may never see any trace, more than of another world, I made a visit to Cape Cod in October, 1849, another the succeeding June, and another to Truro in July, 1855; the first and last time with a single companion, the second time alone. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Leave your brain at the door. June 24 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
You will forget about the outside world when you read this; nothing but sand, wind, and water. Plus some natural history, local folklore, a few shipwreck tales. Typical Thoreau; he finds beauty, interest, detail in the wilderness. The desolate landscape will help to clear your mind. Highly recommended.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cape Cod is the ultimate desert island beach book. Jan. 30 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Each year, in preparation for a week's retreat to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I go in search of a book that would be perfect for a sojourn on a desert island. Of course, the Outer Banks are hardly deserted--the locals have printed up Wege's infamous photograph of a packed stretch of Coney Island with the caption "Nags Head, circa 2000 A.D."--but there we are on an island for seven days, my husband experiencing near death in the waves while I read. Sometimes we stop these pursuits and prowl the beach. Mostly we live as if we're the last two people on earth (which is easier in the off-peak season).

I've learned that not every book is right for this way of life. The perfect desert island book has to celebrate the place you are in, not transport you. It should offer a tinge of society, because, after all, a human is a social animal, but it should not make you yearn achingly for what has been left behind nor should you be so repelled by it that you will never fit in again when you leave the island (you always leave the island). It should have some narrative sweep to withstand the competition of the seascape. It should make you think, at least a little: you want the stress to wash out to sea, not the little grey cells.

Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau is the benchmark by which I've chosen beach material for several years. it is the quintessential celebration of littoral life. If you are on the beach, you appreciate it all the more; if you are not, well, at least you know vividly what you are missing. There is drama, as in the specter of villagers racing to the shore at the news of a shipwreck. There is information, as in what part of the clam not to eat, how the Indians trapped gulls for food, how a lighthouse really works. There is Thoreau's contagious respect for solitude, his occasional crankiness, and that magic trick of his that can suck in high school sophomores and get them through his books without so much as a whimper.

There is one flaw to Cape Cod: brevity. It lasts about a day and a half on the Robinson Crusoe plan. This is not to say that it does not withstand re-reading, it does, but at some point after you have committed it to memory, you may wish for the collected works of Shakespeare and move onto the Bard's beach play, The Tempest.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST EDITION AVAILABLE, BY FAR June 13 2007
By Kevin M. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This hardcover edition from Peninsula Press is unquestionably the best available edition of Thoreau's Cape Cod, for these reasons:

1) While all other editions are based on Thoreau's journal entries from only his first three visits to the Cape, this edition includes an epilogue compiling Thoreau's notes from his fourth and final visit, in which he traveled south to Chatham and Monomoy.

2) This is the only edition to translate the many, many Greek and Latin phrases Thoreau includes throughout the work, and it is also the only edition to provide illustrations, maps, and sidenotes in-text.

3) This is the only indexed edition ever created.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for fans of both Cape literature and Thoreau in general.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leave your brain at the door. June 24 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
You will forget about the outside world when you read this; nothing but sand, wind, and water. Plus some natural history, local folklore, a few shipwreck tales. Typical Thoreau; he finds beauty, interest, detail in the wilderness. The desolate landscape will help to clear your mind. Highly recommended.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cape Cod Walk with Thoreau Aug. 5 2006
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Thoreau visited Cape Cod in 1849, 1850, and 1853. These trips formed the basis for a series of essays, several of which Thoreau published in magazines. After Thoreau's death, the essays were gathered together and published as "Cape Cod" in 1865.

Thoreau's "Cape Cod" is different in tone in theme from his earlier books. The tone is leisurely and light. Instead of solitude or the wild woods, the picture that remains with me from this book is that of a long walk, or, as Thoreau puts it, a "ramble" through the sand and dunes of Cape Cod. The book is picturesque, full of humor and wry observation. Thoreau unforgettably describes the ocean, in its storms, vicissitudes, and moments of peace, the fish and the fishermen, the sands, birds, plants and lighthouses of Cape Cod, and the people. I have visited portions of the Masachusetts coast, but I have never been to Cape Cod. Thoreau took me there in his book.

The book is arranged into ten chapters. It opens with a description of the shipwreck of the St John on a rock off the Cape. Thoreau then describes a ride by coach across the Cape. But the heart of the book lies in the following chapters in which Thoreau with a companion walks the 30 mile beach from Nauset Harbor to Provincetown with many stops and diversions along the way. I felt the salt air and saw the fishermen and the sandy beach as I walked with Thoreau.

The most vivid characterization in the book is in the chapter "The Wellfleet Oysterman", as Thoreau describes a grizzled, taciturn, and ancient native of Cape Cod and his family who offer him hospitality for the night. Another memorable chapter involves the description of the Highland Lighthouse, no longer standing, and its keeper. The stops with the Oysterman and the Lighthouse punctuate Thoreau's long walks through the day over the beach and his meditiations about and descriptions of what he finds there.

Thoreaus walk ended at Provincetown, on the northernmost portion of Cape Cod, with its wood walkway, shanty houses, and ever-present scenes of fishermen, boats, and drying fish. Thoreau offers what I found an affectionate portrait of these hardy fishermen and their families. Following a description of what he found at Provincetown, Thoreau offers a great deal of historical background on the exploration of the Cape, from the Pilgrims reaching back to earlier French, Icelandic, and English explorers.

Thoreau's "Cape Cod" is a worthy companion to his books describing his experiences inland, on Walden Pond and on the rivers and woods of New England and Maine. It is beautifuly written with unforgettable descriptive passages. It made me want to get up and go from my life in the city, and over 150 years after Thoreau wrote, wander and walk for myself along the dunes and sands of Cape Cod.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With Thoreau in the Maine Woods July 27 2006
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In 1848, 1853,and 1857, Henry David Thoreau travelled to the wilderness -- forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains in the northwest part of Maine. He wrote three lengthy essays describing each of his journeys, and they were gathered together, as Thoreau had wished, and published after his death, together with an appendix, as "The Maine Woods." It is a moving book, a classic work of American literature, and the founder of a genre of descriptive travel writing.

Readers coming to "The Maine Woods" after "Walden" or "A Walk on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers" may be in for a surprise. These earlier books do include extensive descriptions of nature and of plants and animals, but their focus is much more internalized and philosophical. Both books are full of discussions of themes that have little direct connection with nature. They show Thoreau as a Transcendentalist, an American philosopher akin to Emerson and others.

"The Maine Woods", in contrast, shows Thoreau as much more of a naturalist interested in describing the wilderness in great detail for its own sake. I think the book articulates a philosophical temperament akin to Thoreau's earlier books, but it is for the most part implicit rather than stated at length.

The three essays describe Thoreau's journeys at widely separated times to Mount Ktaadn, the Chesuncook River, and the Allegash and East Branch Rivers, journeys that overlapped to some degree. Thoreau travelled with a companion and with Indian guides. He gives the reader pictures of what was still largely a pristine wilderness even though it was, at that early time, already being subject to logging, the growth of towns, and despoilation. We see Thoreau and his companions travelling in canoes or batteaus on the interconnected rivers and lakes of northwest Maine, carrying and portaging their vessels around falls, camping in the woods, observing the vegetation and animals, getting lost, finding shelter from the rain, visiting lumber camps and the hardy residents of the woods, gathering berries, hunting, and much else. The narrative is filled with detail of Thoreau's experiences and thoughts.

I found the most moving part of the book was Thoreau's description of his climb up Mount Ktaadn in the first essay. We see this journey in detail, described with ancient Greek and American Indian symbolism. It concludes with a long peroration of the value of wilderness -- of land not controlled or under the disposition of people. Thoreau observes that "the country is virtually unmapped and unexplored, and there still waves the virgin forest of the New World." The "Chesuncook" essay includes a vivid description of the stalking and killing of a moose and Thoreau's resultant sense of discomfort. It closes with a call for the creation of national preserves for wilderness. The final essay describes a broad spectrum of adventures and places on a day-to-day basis. There are many passages that describe Thoreau's Indian guide, Joe Polis. Although Thoreau was deeply fascinated with the Indian heritage of Maine, some of his treatment of Polis will sound stereotyped to modern readers.

Thoreau's book was the first in a long line of American works devoted to nature. But I was reminded most of the Beat writers in some of their moments, of Jack Kerouac, (a native of Lowell, Massachusetts) in "The Dharma Bums" describing rucksacking and the climbing of a mountain and of the poetry of Gary Snyder.

This book is about the need to leave the beaten path and follow one's star. There are some fine websites in which the interested reader can get more information about the places Thoreau visited. [...]

Robin Friedman
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